Jakarta: The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has stated that his country is strengthening its policy in the South China Sea.
"Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them," Pompeo said in a press statement on Monday.
"In the South China Sea, we seek to preserve peace and stability, uphold freedom of the seas in a manner consistent with international law, maintain the unimpeded flow of commerce, and oppose any attempt to use coercion or force to settle disputes," he stated.
According to Pompeo, China has no legal grounds to unilaterally impose its will on the region. Beijing has offered no coherent legal basis for its “Nine-Dashed Line” claim in the South China Sea since formally announcing it in 2009.
In a unanimous decision on July 12, 2016, an Arbitral Tribunal constituted under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention – to which the China is a state party – rejected the China’s maritime claims as having no basis in international law. The Tribunal sided squarely with the Philippines, which brought the arbitration case, on almost all claims.
"We are aligning the US position on China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea with the tribunal’s decision," he stated.
Specifically, the US rejected China's claim vis-a-vis the Philippines in areas that the tribunal found to be in the Philippines’ exclusive econimic zone (EEZ) or on its continental shelf. In addition, the US also rejected any China's claim to waters beyond a 12-nautical mile territorial sea derived from islands it claims in the Spratly Islands without prejudice to other states’ sovereignty claims over such islands. Furthermore, the US also rejected China's territorial or maritime claim to or derived from James Shoal, an entirely submerged feature only 50 nautical miles from Malaysia and some 1,000 nautical miles from China’s coast.
"America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law," he stated.
"We stand with the international community in defense of freedom of the seas and respect for sovereignty and reject any push to impose “might makes right” in the South China Sea or the wider region," he stated.